Wednesday, September 30, 2009


If I'd ever been good enough to play pro baseball, a .333 average might have been pretty good.....but in this world of picking and recommending doctrinally-sound ministry sites, it ain't too hot.

That's what I did about 2 or 3 months ago when I posted an article here recommending 3 sites I had just discovered.

About a month later, I had to delete one when I found out the main emphasis was the bitterness of the author who used the site for his personal ax-grinding.

Today, I had to delete another one, having learned that the leader of this one is just another "I am not accountable to anyone" ego-driven juvenile. I'm sure there are lots of Godly people involved in that one but fear that they'll not get much guidance from this "pastor"

Sad, but not surprising.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I think it's time for another Reformation. The first one did great things with regard to theology, particularly the theology of Justification. Unfortunately, those reformers carried over the trappings of the Roman church with regard to nearly everything else.....paedo-baptism, formalism, this firmly-entrenched clergy-laity dichotomy, the idea that a church building must rival the Taj Mahal, the idea of centralizing power in one man (within a congregation or within a denomination).

House churches could be the genesis of such a reformation. The potential is there, but so is the potential to end up with something which is different but not better. I saw a poignant example of that the other day on the website of a prominent house church advocate where a guy was railing against the perversion of "authority" in traditional churches, "one-man dictatorships" and how the church should be a democracy. Then, in the next breath, as he made the pitch for selling his sermon recordings, he warned that his sermons were "harsh" dogmatic and might seem mean-spirited........So, in his effort to unseat the present problem, he acts just like his "enemy"......wonderful!

The old cliche about "throwing the baby out with the bath water" is apropos in this situation. I do not dispute that traditional churches are fraught with problems. The problems do not exist because these churches are following the Biblical examples and instructions, however, but because they are not following them. The house church which begins by ignoring or manipulating clear Biblical structures is bound for failure...failure to be a Biblical church, anyway. It might be a success in the eyes of those who were looking for an escape from church discipline, from accountability, etc, but it will be no better than the traditional off-course congregation of today......just same mess, different location.

I've been reading house church stuff since the 70's but I don't pretend to be an expert on all the "schools of thought" in the field. I've been a leader in 3 church starts, one of which began in our living room 30 years ago. Nearly every camp I've visited soon throws a curve regarding Biblical structure. One early leader had my attention until he advocated the ordination of women; the idea of "democracy" is very big in some circles nowadays. "We're all teachers" I've heard over and over. That stuff reminds me of the old, worthless Sunday school nonsense "and what does this verse mean to you?"

It's clear in the Word that God gives His local churches gifts including teachers. Not everyone is a teacher. Not everyone is a deacon. Men are so pride-filled they are unable to sit down and learn, to shut up and listen....even when God has provided teachers for that very purpose--fulfilling the local church's mission: the edification of the saints. That edification does not come about through a bunch of scripturally-ignorant people sitting around in a circle nattering about "what this verse means".

I'm not sure what it will act of God, for put the house church movement on the right path. Too many times, the ones who rise to the top are the most vocal, stridently so, axe-grinders, the disaffected, the hurt, the bitter, out of the traditional church world. Their "house church" becomes a cult of the personality, every bit as much as the traditional church they disdain.

On the bright side, I think most of the negative stuff is localized in the U.S. Elsewhere in the world, where folks have not (yet anyway) been poisoned by the koolaid of "American Christianity" house churches do very well. Missionaries who are where they are for the purpose of declaring the Gospel of Jesus Christ rather than westernizing someone's culture are able to plant churches more in line with the "Jewish community" model as opposed to replicating American-Constantinian model churches (see part 3 regarding this nomenclature).

Sunday, September 20, 2009


A friend asked recently, in so many words, "Should we not move on from all this emphasis on the Cross....move on to the Throne, where Christ is now?"

Of course, "No!" pops into my mind immediately. Following that, as I began thinking about the ramifications of the question, I posted this blurb: "...the centrality of the Cross. No event in history approaches the magnitude; no event in eternity will overshadow it. Nothing good or worthwhile is possible apart from it."

But, the question deserves more than a one-word answer or a clever blurb. It's difficult first of all because it's impossible to know exactly what a questioner means, what's in their heart, how they define their terms, etc. So misunderstanding and miscommunication are real threats. Nevertheless, I am going to undertake if not to answer, to open up this area for thought and discussion.

The original question included the phrase "...Cross more of a doorway to the throne where we ought to be" We'll start there....Background: we have a race of fallen men, sinners, alienated from God because of their sinful state/nature......and we have God who wills to reconcile some of those fallen men to Himself for His glory. In order to maintain His righteousness, to continue to be the Just God, He must execute His wrath, His justice in response to those sins. He chooses the only way to be both Just and Justifier: the sacrifice of His perfectly holy, sinless Son in the place of those whom He will redeem. That work took place on that cross and is referred to in various terms like "the Cross" "the Blood" and "the Death of Christ"....all connected to this work of sin-bearing, wrath, expiation, atonement.

The questioner's specific reference to the "throne" came from Hebrews 4:16--

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Yes, we may now draw near to this throne of Grace and receive mercy and grace.....but it seems impossible to leave the Cross out of this picture. A couple of random thoughts:

1. Throne. Generally, God's throne is pictured as a place of judgment. Often it is portrayed as a courtroom scene where guilty sinners stand before a Holy God to hear their doom pronounced. In this instance, the throne is a "throne of grace and mercy".....How can that be? Because of the Cross! The required Judgment has been executed upon Christ for those who are His.

2. This throne is not a "dwelling place" for believers, but a place to which we can draw near as necessary. So far as positional standing, Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:6 that believers are presently (right now) seated with Him in heavenly places. Note well the last three words of that phrase: in Christ Jesus. This is spiritual positioning. Believers are "in Christ" so we are wherever He is, spiritually.

Paul (ok then, the "writer of says "draw near to the Throne"....How are we able to do that? What man can stand before the Throne, in the presence of God? Only the man who is "in Christ"...Further along in Hebrews, chapter 10, it is written:

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,
.....let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

See? The only means by which we can "draw near the throne" is the Blood of Christ, the Cross. They are inseparable.

Believers are still sinners--saved sinners, to be sure--but sinners. Were we not "in Christ" we could never approach the throne except as we were dragged before God in judgment. Believers are commanded continually to avail themselves of this cleansing stream. Though spiritually seated with Christ, we are physically still walking in this filthy world, in our sin-corrupted flesh, and are wracked by sin.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1)

So, what are believers to do about their sin? If we've left behind the Cross, we're in trouble, because God's provision is:

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. .......If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1)

We must visit the Cross regularly, daily. It, the Blood of Christ, is the birthplace of the forgiveness we receive from God. It's not a "one time deal" from we can "move on" to higher or better things. There are no "higher or better things"!

For some, this kind of question may be born out of a low view of the Gospel (not the case with my questioner, but others I have met). There is this notion that the "gospel" is some one-trick pony in which a lost man recites a wrote prayer and presto-chango becomes a child of God. Recently I was engaged in an internet discussion where a man reduced the "gospel" to one verse in his argument that there was so much more of importance in the Bible than the Gospel.

My view is that there is nothing in the Bible but the Gospel. God's word is His revelation to man of His plan and work for redeeming unto Himself a people and glorifying Himself in so doing. The redemption of sinners, their reconciliation to a Holy God is the Gospel. The centerpiece of the Gospel is the Cross. Every other "good thing" which believers have is a product of the Cross. Apart from it, we have nothing. We dare not leave it behind.

I feel that all scripture supports my view on this but am particularly led by a couple of passages from Paul's epistles:

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
(1 Corinthians 2:2)

To this troubled church in Corinth, Paul had only one message and it was born out of that foundational event--the crucifixion of Christ--the Cross.

Earlier he had written to the church in Rome of his desire to come to them and minister to them.....what did he say specifically?--

So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
(Romans 1:15-16)

See that? He wanted to preach to this church, this local assembly of believers.......and his desire was to "preach the Gospel" to them. There is no "moving on" in his heart. The Gospel is the power of God to those who believe!

Really, this is much of what's lacking in today's churches. They have moved on.....and now get sermons on financial practices, sex technique, and electoral politics. But lives are not transformed by that; God is not glorified by that.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
(Ephesians 2:13-16)

HOUSE CHURCHES part 3--TC A "Spectator Event"?

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Thursday, September 17, 2009


Recently I read parts of a doctoral dissertation by a Facebook friend. It's over my head; I am finally acknowledging that my lack of formal education is a handicap, not something to boast about, but it's too late!

Anyway, the portion of this thesis which caught my eye was on the dichotomy of Constantinian church structure versus the Jewish community structure. Most of what follows here is what I infer from what I have read so far, which quantity is really insufficient for drawing the conclusions I'm heading I'm subject to correction (as always) and open to criticism.

To me, the ideal local church has always been one modeled after Acts 2:41-47. This is also the "church" which I've never seems not to exist today. Apparently this is the "Jewish community" model which dominated Christianity for some time after Acts 2--until the fourth century when Constantine came into power.

The Constantinian model is described as "a move from house churches to large basilicas, infant baptism (since now citizenship in the state was equivalent with membership in the church, which was no longer voluntary), a move from multiple church leadership to more authority vested in the priest and in the church hierarchy, and a shift of emphasis from awaiting God's final victory over the powers in the age to come, to primary concern about the fate of each individual's soul."

That quote is from an article by Lois Barrett:

She actually identifies 4 models of the "church" but I think the first 3, generally speaking, can be lumped together with the Constantinian model in opposition to the Jewish community model. One of the others is described as follows (this is so good I kept expanding the it's quite lengthy....but "Hello, 21st Century 'church'"!!!

"...the church as voluntary association in somewhat like a religious civic club. This model assumes a segmented life: the soccer club takes care of one's recreational needs; the business association takes care of one's professional needs; the church takes care of one's spiritual needs. The church is a place to mold good citizens, civil people, good people who will go out and do good things that benefit society as a whole. Relationships with government are often of the reform variety. The good people in the church are sent out to work in their particular vocation in a Christian manner. Churches of this model can be liberal or conservative, evangelical or mainline. They are interested in operating by democratic principles. They sometimes have a type of civil religion. They think that the real power lies in Washington and Ottawa. They are as much a part of the establishment as the previous model."

(more to come....)


I've made a few comments about unBiblical house churches which have stirred some hysterical reactions, from coast to coast, Syracuse to LA......mostly cases of "hit dogs yelping"

Lest I be misunderstood by the brethren, however, I thought I might make a few observations about what I hope is the great majority of house churches--the Biblical ones.

Most of us agree that the majority of local churches today, which from here on will be referred to as "traditional" or "TC" for the sake of brevity, most of these are greatly flawed, ineffective, and often worse than that.

So, what goals should one have in mind, what motivation should one have, if he is starting a house church?

1. First, it must NOT be about you. This is the category I've been belaboring in other posts and I'll not dwell on it here. Churches started by men who are in rebellion, had their feelings hurt, etc, are not "churches" Local churches are established by God as the Holy Spirit leads Godly men, for the purpose of bringing glory to His name.

2. House churches must not be ingrown, insular, are so many TC. The commandment from God is still to "go out" to the world, not sit in your pew and wait for the lost to come to you....especially not come to you because your "church" looks like the Ringling Brothers Circus or MTV live.

3. House churches should spread by division, like cellular growth. I've seen TC with a dozen, or 20, or 30 preachers in the congregation. What in the world are they doing? Nearly all of us will be quick to complain that there are so few doctrinally-sound churches....but here we have the manpower to lead a dozen or two dozen congregations, men who are doctrinally sound.....and they are sitting in the same room on Sunday rather than ministering to the countless hundreds and thousands of folks who wish they had a "good church" to attend.

That's among the worst of mistakes in the TC which house churches should's quite avoidable if folks keep their eye on the Vision. Briefly, the Vision for house churches should be something like this:

It begins with a gathering of 6-10 of God's redeemed and over time, as God moves, grows to 40 or 50 or 100.......All during this growth time, it sends out (ordains) church planters to new areas, new neighborhoods, adjoining towns, and another 6-10 folks repeat the process. This kind of growth by division will lead to the Biblical idea of Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, ends of the earth.

What you will not have is this TC stultification, this "delegation" of the Great Commission to "someone else"--contentment in financially supporting a few missionaries overseas or sending a check every month to some mission board; contentment in the hearts of 99% of the "church membership" who never lift a finger toward spreading the Gospel.

Neither then will the house church ever get into the Castle on the Corner mentality where the driving force in their congregation is to have the finest physical plant of any group in the city. They will never be Big.......because they keep splitting off and going rather than staying put and building $40 million "campuses"

Nor will they ever become "magnet" churches like some TC--those institutions which have become prominent perhaps even world-wide, known for strong preaching. Too often, these magnets attract people from far and wide who then end up in one city, one congregation, and who sit there for the rest of their lives enjoying the "good preaching, good teaching" but without a burden for those who can't make the long drive or move to another city and remain "churchless" and untaught. That kind of stuff is what I mean by "insular" and "ingrown"

(end of part 1)

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Those of you who have previously written me off as an ascetic and a crank can just skip this post...nothing new here folks, move along!

Recently I saw a blog post which included a comment about being entertained by Paige Patterson and Mrs Patterson at "Pecan Manor." That's the mansion provided for the President of South Western Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft Worth.

That picture of the house was taken by Dr Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary at Louisville. He also took this picture of the mansion he lives in there....(on the right).

So, I'm wondering why it is necessary for the "Church" to provide luxurious living like this for its leadership? These guys are not President of General Motors (ooops, bad example.....showing my age)...these are servants of Christ's church.

Financial data on such situations is hard to come by. I'm good at "finding stuff" by searching the internet....I can find your phone number, address, maybe a picture of your house or at least the street you live on; I can find out how much the President of AIG makes.....but I sure can't find out what these two fellows are paid. It's even tough to find out what some Big Name pastors are paid....their salary is lumped into large budget categories, thus obscured, like "Preaching Ministry" $1,000,000. That could include 3 or 4 salaries, for example.

I'm trying to keep this short. I'd like some discussion. And I'm not picking on Al Mohler or Paige Patterson.....they were just in the room when the thought hit me. They are not the problem; they are just in a problem-fraught system.

Thinking about the book of Amos. "Come to Bethel and transgress" In chapter 4, Beth-El "the place of God" had become representative of corrupted religion.

"Hear, and testify against the house of Jacob," declares the Lord GOD, the God of hosts, "that on the day I punish Israel for his transgressions, I will punish the altars of Bethel, and the horns of the altar shall be cut off and fall to the ground. I will strike the winter house along with the summer house, and the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall come to an end," declares the LORD.
(Amos 3:13-15)

In this world populated with lost souls and impoverished men, it is incomprehensible to me how the "Church" can possibly justify corporate-level salaries and aristocratic mansions for the leadship...leadership which according to Biblical example is humble and a Church where those who "had" were willing to sell all and give to those who "had not"

We've come a long way.......
We've come to Bethel.